Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
More than a decade ago, a resident walked into a Kansas City, Kan., newsroom and complained, “Why is all the news so negative?”
The editor at the time disagreed with the statement. The news is not all negative, he told him. He took the latest copy of the newspaper and a ruler, and measured the news columns in the paper. As it turned out, there was more positive than negative news on the front page, as shown by the number of column inches allotted to each story. The same was true for the rest of the paper, as well.
The reader had only been looking at the negative headlines, not the positive stories about another resident who won an award, or about some new program being launched that would help the community. Clearly, the news was not all negative. But the reader was drawn to the negative news, leading him to think it was all negative.
Currently, we are in the last seven days before the Nov. 4 election, and it has been, in my opinion, a very negative campaign especially with negative direct mail and television ads. The negative campaigning has been commented upon widely by many persons in both public and private conversations. Just like the reader’s complaint about negative news, negative advertising is also one of perception, with a lot of positive messages not getting too much of our attention. People say they hate the negative ads, but those ads get their attention.
Let’s take a look at these issues covered by the negative ads. The negative ads make it seem like it’s terrible, but is it? They haven’t unearthed very much new information, nor very much valuable information. They’re all pretty lame. Some of them are from outside groups that often are not even in Kansas. They point out:
• According to negative ads, the incumbent Republican governor’s economic policies have failed, and his campaign finance has ties to very conservative donors. Tell us something we didn’t already know.
• One negative ad pounding the airwaves says that the Democratic candidate for governor as a young single man once went to a strip club, at his employer’s request while working as an attorney for the club, where there was a topless dancer. So what?
• Another attack ad on the Democratic candidate for governor tries to link him to decisions of the Kansas Supreme Court, when he was not part of the decisions for those cases. While it calls their decisions liberal, in my opinion, in looking at many, many case summary opinions involving Wyandotte County cases for the past few years, the Supreme Court most of the time has upheld the convictions from here and has been pretty tough. The ad is misleading.
• The incumbent U.S. representative, 3rd District, a Republican, went skinny-dipping in 2011 in the Sea of Galilee, a negative ad points out. Big deal.
• A campaign postcard shows a lot of bad photos of the Democratic candidate for the U.S. representative, 3rd District position, along with saying she voted for tax increases, included in the state budget, while she was in the state Legislature. That ad tells me they couldn’t find anything negative about her.
• One negative ad points out that the incumbent U.S. senator is old and is mostly in Washington, D.C. Besides being age discrimination, gee, what did you expect?
• The independent U.S. Senate candidate, according to a negative ad, is really like a Democrat and is not as conservative as the Republican candidate. It tries to link him to Obama. Like most people in Wyandotte County, I would ask, what’s wrong with that? Obama may have received only 38 percent of the vote in Kansas in 2012, but he received 67 percent of the vote in Wyandotte County. Hmmm, only time will tell what the independent candidate will do, but that Democrat label will appeal to a lot of people in Wyandotte County.
I would advise voters not to consider any of the negative ads. Instead, find the candidates’ positions on issues that are important to you. Then try to match your views on your important issues with those of the candidate’s. Forget any of the personal ad hominem attacks – they don’t matter at all. None of this stuff in the attack ads is enough reason to vote against someone.
What the negative ads really say to me is that the candidate is behind in some of the polls and has been advised to go negative to try to catch up to the other candidate.
The bombardment of negative campaign ads these last few weeks also has inspired me to think of some ways for you to deal with it.
Here are some tips for getting through the negative campaign season:
1. Boots and raincoats went on sale at some stores this past week. Gear up for the mudslinging.
2. The television set has an off switch. Use it. Look into starting your own online webcasts on your own website where you don’t allow negative ads.
3. Temporarily tape or DVR your favorite program, then watch it later, fast-forwarding through the ads.
4. Watch only Channel 19 or old movie channels that have no ads until after the election.
5. File the campaign mailers away immediately in your wastebasket.
6. Go out and meet the candidates in person when they come to Wyandotte County.
7. Check candidates’ websites or social media sites for a response to negative ads. Don’t accept the negative ads at face value. Don’t let them sell you the candidates like they sell a bar of soap.
8. Some candidates may be hoping that you get so tired of the negativity that you will stay home and not vote. Don’t let that happen. Remember, this election needs the votes of everyone, not just a few fanatics, to determine the future of the state and nation.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.